ATHENS — Kirby Smart’s transformation from regal to rough is quite the sight to behold each football season.
Few can transition like Smart, who seems to have just the right tone for every audience put before him as he represents the University of Georgia.
A four-time academic All-SEC selection with a business degree, Smart can stand before university leaders and administration with the air of a Fortune 500 company CEO.
But then each day on the UGA practices fields, and in the team meetings and along the sidelines, the old football player in Smart comes out. The son of a high school coach, and still only 44 years old, Smart can relate to players and therefore motivate players like few others in the business.
It’s likely one reason why Georgia football has as much buy-in as any program, and top-level recruits flock to Smart and his staff to become a part of their family.
The coaching and development is top-notch, as evidenced by the record number of Bulldogs invited to the NFL combine and surging numbers being drafted.
The Georgia football Twitter account recently released some inside the locker room footage of Smart working his pregame magic with great enthusiasm.
But for all the yelling and gesticulating, the messages are what makes it work. Simple sayings and concepts for players to hold on to before they take the field in the world’s most aggressive and violent team sport.
“Do simple better!” Smart says. “Simple is a double team, simple is striking somebody, putting your hat speed on somebody.
“We own the line of scrimmage. We own the rushing game. When you dominate that, it opens everything up.”
One thing that won’t change is Smart’s belief in the run game and the necessity to get tough yards when called upon. As much talk as there has been about a different UGA offense, it should really be considered more of a modification.
Georgia will run the football to a degree, and Smart will insist to whoever his offensive coordinator is that the team be effective both running and passing.
Smart understands as a former defensive coordinator how difficult a sound run game makes things for a defense, just as he can appreciate the chaotic environments his players enter into on Saturdays.
Smart was a safety playing in front of crowds approaching or over 100,000 not too long ago, himself, and he has often shared how his mindset adapted.
“It gets real quiet guys when you go out there,” Smart said. “When you hear the loudest noise they’ve got, and it gets as loud as possible, that’s when it’s most quiet, and that’s when I’ the most focused.
“I’m thinking about what I’ve got to do to beat the guy across from me.”
Indeed, crisis management is the mark of great leadership, and in football that skill relates as game conditions ebb and flow and crowd energy works to factor into the game.
Preparation, of course, is always a factor and Smart and Scott Sinclair make sure the Bulldogs’ strength and conditioning is on a championship level.
Coaches focus on technique, but the unspoken key is having players with the physicality and willpower to execute.
Smart, in his pregame speech, makes reference to the players’ ability to rally around one another and impose their will on the opponent.
“You lay this thing on the line for your brothers in this room for 60 minutes guys, and this is about dominating the guy across from you,” Smart said. “They don’t do it like we do it, you believe that, and four quarters, guys, four quarters of pounding and pounding and pounding.
“Who wins this game? The one with discipline, the one with composure, who doesn’t lose his mind, the one that plays within the system, the one that chops wood, right? And then the one who’s the most physical, and I know they’re in here.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 12, 2020